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posticon the basilisk


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The name basilisk comes from the Greek basileus, which means king. The basilisk was the King of the snakes and the most poisonous creature on earth. His appearance has always been a matter of dispute since there is no way to see a basilisk and survive. Looking at it, according to legend, brings death.

The basilisk was depicted in a few illuminated manuscripts in the Middle Ages but appeared much more often as an ornamental detail in church architecture, adorning capitals and medallions. The best representation of the basilisk is found in the decorative field of heraldry where the basilisk had the head and legs of a cock, a snake-like tail, and a body like a bird’s. It seems that the wings could be depicted as either being covered with feathers or scales.

In 1587 a basilisk killed three persons in Warsaw (Poland). Playing hide-and-seek two children, a boy and a girl, both five years old, intended to hide in an old cellar, which had been abandoned for 30 years. When they reached the lowest step they suddenly fell dead on the floor. They were not found before the evening, when their mothers missed them. A servant was sent out in search. She really found them, but when she went down into the cellar to waken the apparently sleeping children she was herself struck by death. However, an old woman had noticed her entering the abandoned building. She found them all three lying on the ground. All her shouting remained unanswered. Neighbours came and recovered the corpses with long clasps. The bodies were swollen, and so were their lips and tongues. Their skin had turned to yellow. From these signs some learned persons guessed, that a serpent or rather a basilisk had caused their deaths.

A poor sinner was found who had been sentenced to death. He was clad in leather clothes draped with mirrors. His eyes were protected by strong glasses. With a candle in one hand and pincers in the other he went down the vault. There after half an hour search he found a strange creature of the size of a cock sitting in a crevasse of the wall. It was at once killed when it saw its own image reflected by the mirrors. The man took it with the pincers and brought it up to bright daylight. It was identified as a basilisk with the head of an Indian cock but the eyes of a toad. Its body and wings were colored with yellow, blue, red, and green specks. The long, yellow feet were that of a rooster, but its curved tail resembled that of a snake.

An Italian nobleman was killed by a basilisk when he went hunting. For a long time his dog had barked at a heap of stones when his master tried to find out what embarrassed his dog. He found a winged serpent. When he tried to slay her, the serpent spread the wings and blew poisonous breath into his face. At once he fell to the ground and lived just long enough to tell his companions what he had seen.

The most characteristic feature of the basilisk is its ability to kill at a distance, either with venom or a glance. Its glance would kill instantly and its breath could break stone. It was formerly believed that if killed by a spear from on horseback the power of the poison conducted through the weapon killed not only the rider, but the horse also.

Weasels can bite Basilisk to death. Men put them into the caves where the basilisks lie hidden. The basilisk might look daggers, the weasel cared not, but advanced boldly to the conflict. When bitten, the weasel retired for a moment to eat some rue, which was the only plant the basilisks could not wither, returned with renewed strength and soundness to the charge, and never left the enemy till he was stretched dead on the plain.

Those who went to hunt the basilisk took with them a mirror, which reflected back the deadly glare upon its author, and by a kind of poetical justice slew the basilisk with his own weapon.

According to some tales, the crowing of a cock can also kill a basilisk. This weakness also affects other monsters like faeries, ghosts or vampires that are supposed to appear in the night and disappear at the first light.

The basilisk was of some use after death. Thus we read that its carcass was suspended in the temple of Apollo, and in private houses, as a sovereign remedy against spiders, and that it was also hung up in the temple of Diana, for which reason no swallow ever dared enter the sacred place.

It was also said in antiquity that silver rubbed with the ashes of a dead basilisk would make the silver take on the appearance of gold. These protoscientific uses of the basilisk persist in the medieval bestiaries and the latter attribute became quite popular in the alchemical tracts of the Renaissance.



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During the first century AD, many travelers crossing the deserts of North Africa used to take with them cockerels as a protection against Basilisk.

Strangely, a new type of Basilisk appears which had the head of a cock instead of that of a reptile. It was first called a Basil cock and later a Cockatrice or Cockatrix.

Its birth is very curious. It has to be born from a shell-less egg, which is laid by a seven-old-year cock during the period when Sirius the Dog Star can be seen in the sky. A toad or snake on a dung heap must then hatch the spherical egg. The cockatrice that emerges from the egg has eyes that resemble those of a toad but still retains their basilisk mortal stare.

 To the medieval Christians it represented sin and sudden death.

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Last edited by MaTTsWoRld, Sep/14/2007, 12:44 pm


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you smile because iam different,i laugh because your all the same

Sep/14/2007, 12:43 pm Link to this post Send Email to MaTTsWoRld   Send PM to MaTTsWoRld Blog
 
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Re: the basilisk


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you smile because iam different,i laugh because your all the same

Jun/12/2008, 10:53 am Link to this post Send Email to MaTTsWoRld   Send PM to MaTTsWoRld Blog
 


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